What, no drafting?

Anyone who has cycled in groups quickly realizes the benefits of drafting in a paceline. You can easily ride 2-3 mph faster riding in a paceline with less effort than riding by yourself, particularly when it’s windy.

So, I thought I would benefit some from drafting while tagging onto the back end of a fast group paddle yesterday afternoon. It was one of my first experiences paddling with a group, and all I was trying to do was hang with the pack. Unfortunately, we were paddling into a fairly stiff wind and I started about 50 yards off the back.

My plan was to paddle hard until I could catch onto the back of the pack, and then draft while I rested up. Not! First, it took me 2.5 miles to catch the back, and I quickly discovered there was no drafting or slipstream effect in paddling – or at least it was very minor compared to cycling. So, I got no rest once I reached the group and pretty much paddled my butt off for 6 miles.

However, I got a great workout and averaged 4 mph in my Necky Manitou 13 while trying to catch a bunch of much more experienced paddlers in 16-18’ kayaks. In cyclists’ lingo, I got dropped off the back big time but it was a lot of fun and I’m ready for more.

Where were you sitting?
To draft with kayaks you don’t sit directly behind the other kayak, you want your bow a little to the side of their stern so you can use the wave formed by the other kayak.

takes pratice
Canoe racers will draft for 50-60 miles then

try to sprint ahead. I know several kayak racers who also draft successfully.

RedCrossRandy prefers to just go for the clean water

as staying on the wake is pretty intense, and not easy in the classes we normally race in.

Your completely wrong
Drafting is as much fun in kayaking/canoeing as it is in cycling.

Get within a couple of inches behind a guy going 6mph and you can even miss a stroke in about every ten while he is working his butt off, just to keep from hitting him. Just don’t hit him and tick him off.

The fun (hard work) part comes near the end of the race when you have to get over both his stern wake and then his bow wake.

Sounds like your mistake was not staying with those guys right from the start,

Also like cycling; once you get dropped unless you have some mighty stamina you are not going to catch back up. I know, I get dropped a lot!



Getting dropped is where I shine
Drafting is a wonderful thing. I race C1s in Florida and wake ride all kinds of boats, from skis to K2s to tandem canoes. There’s definitely a certain level of skill involved.

I rode a national champion’s wake through a mangrove tunnel here and recorded speeds of over 9 mph for maybe half a mile. That was some major fun wake riding.

But headwinds can cancel out the waves, at least it gives me more trouble when trying to ride someone’s wake.

Also, you have to sit on the rear wave or out to the side and half a boat length behind. Have fun.

So, you’re saying I was just plain dropped. Sounds like I didn’t get close enough to benefit from the slipstream. Still, it doesn’t seem the benefit from drafting could be a significant as with cycling since the speeds are so much slower. With cycling, you get progressively more benefit from drafting the faster you’re moving (and the larger the pack).

Drafting on the side wave for me was difficult. I don’t have a rudder and had to constantly correct. It also seemed to me that to effectively draft behind a boat you had to be less than 6" behind their stern.

4 mph in a 13’ boat is cookin!
get yourself a 15’ or 16’ and stop working so hard.

You never made it clear which slipstream you were trying to slip into. The air slipstream created by the paddler or the water slipstream created by the boat in front? The water part is way more important than the air part.

To catch the “slipstream” created by the boat, you need to be slightly off to the side, not directly behind the stern. You also need to get your bow up a bit further than just level to the stern.

The fact you have a shorter and wider boat also made the draft effect less. It’s like riding a mountain bike but trying to draft off someone on a tri bike. The draftee (rider in front) is so much aerodynamically efficient than the drafter (rider behind), the drafter gets minimum benefit. The same with trying to draft a short wider boat behind a streamline long narrow boat. So much of your water resistance come from the rest of your boat, the reduction of bow wave is proportionally minimal.

Sounds like you were
But that’s fine. You can’t match speeds with longer, skinner boats in that 13-footer. Practically no one can.

And you can usually count on one thing when cruising fast in a pack or while in a race: Once those boats break contact with you, you won’t see them again.

Seems to have less of an effect…
than it does when bicycling.

When I drafted another sea kayaker, it did reduce the effort I needed to keep up, but not by the same amount it did when I drafted while cycling. Maybe because on the water, I was fighting both a strong headwind and choppy water, whereas while cycling it was just headwind. Water surface is affected by wind, while rolling resistance may not be, or less so. Also, in cycling the speeds are several times are high as while kayaking.

I agree about not drafting directly behind the draftee but a little to one side. I didn’t understand why but it worked better.

draft off canoes
Drafting off a race canoe is much more fun, although even with the larger wake, I can only stay with them for ten minutes or so, the Manitou 13 is fast, but not that fast. Drafting does help though. Been able to average 4.75-5 mph over 7-11 miles thanks to those canoes, versus the 4-4.5 over similar or shorter distances without the benefit of them.

You should be able to tell by how the water feels via the paddle when you are in the right spot. Try to “borrow” somebody in a faster boat and practice for a bit.

Few different ways to draft. There’s the inches away from their stern, off to the side and up a couple of feet to ride the initial stern wave, and then close and almost right beside them but back a few feet and ride off their bow wave.

Still a noob at racing and drafting, so take that into account with the advice above.

Yeah, You Can Draft a Kayak
Were you at Jordan on Wednesday evening? I did the Wednesday evening thing once. Pretty hard, ain’t it? I was drafting fast road bikers that evening north of Burlington.

Now Kudzu…

– Last Updated: Jul-18-08 5:05 PM EST –

If I recall we were just taking it easy that night you joined us...

; )

I Tried & Tried
but I couldn’t beat you to the bridge.